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Canadian triathlete dies during swim at Ironman 70.3 Ireland, Cork

Two athletes die during swim at event in Cork, Ireland

Two athletes died yesterday during the swim at Ironman 70.3 Ireland, Cork. The two athletes have been identified as Ivan Chittenden, 64, from Toronto, and Brendan Wall, 45, from the UK. (Wall was originally from Ireland, according to  who was originally from Slane, Co Meath, but had been living in the UK for many years, according to Radio Teilifis Eireann (RTE) Ireland’s public service broadcaster.)

According to a statement from Ironman yesterday, both athletes were competing in the 70.3 race. The swim course for Ironman Ireland, Cork, had been shortened to 1.9 km, the same distance as the 70.3 race due to the “current conditions of the water at the swim start.”

Minister and Mayor call for investigation

Video footage from the race posted by Cathal Shaw shows the challenging conditions the athletes were facing. Irish Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, told RTE that: “It is important that the full facts of what happened are established, and that any questions that are being asked are comprehensively answered.”

“I’ve no doubt the organisers of the event will conduct a comprehensive investigation into what happened. Cork County Council is the lead sponsor of the event, and I have no doubt that they will want a full account of what happened as well,” McGrath continued. “It may well be the case the Water Safety Ireland will also be asking questions and wish to fully understand the facts and the circumstances of what happened.”

The 70.3 race had been postponed by a day thanks to “severe adverse weather conditions” that caused flooding along the race course. The local authorities managed to clean up the debris along the race course in order for the event to continue on Sunday alongside the full-distance race.

“I’ve no doubt there will be a full investigation and I look forward to the reports on that and that’s something that I ask that they would look at,” County Cork Mayor Frank O’Flynn told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“Afterwards, I suppose it’s easier to make the call, but it’s a worldwide event, there’s quite a lot of organisation that went into it. But at the end of the day, safety is paramount and the fact that they did reduce the length of the swim – it was at that stage they thought that they would make it much safer, because they are very, very conscious of safety.”

“It is very, very well organised. I never saw so many stewards,” he continued.

Ironman has issued a further statement clarifying the decision to shorten the swim:

With all Ironman events, our utmost priority is the safety of our athletes and all others involved in the event. The weather conditions were monitored carefully over the Ironman Ireland, Cork and Ironman 70.3 Ireland, Cork triathlon weekend, with the Ironman 70.3 triathlon being re-scheduled to take place on Sunday, alongside Ironman Ireland, Cork to provide a safer race for athletes.

On the morning of Sunday 20 August, Ironman Ireland officials and the specific on-swim safety team carried out all standard safety protocol checks that are completed at every race and determined water conditions were safe for the swim to take place.

Due to the prevailing weather conditions, a decision was made, however, to shorten the distance of the swim as a further precaution to ensure that the significant water safety assets – such as kayaks, lifeguards and medical boats – could be concentrated over a smaller area while also allowing swimmers the ability to swim with the help of a more favourable current and incoming tide after the first 100m.  

Our thoughts continue to be with the family and friends of the two athletes who passed. We are providing ongoing assistance to their families and we will continue to offer them our support as they go through this very difficult time.